Every year I try to donate a portion of my income to charity. I can’t say it’s tithing as such but it’s somewhere around that. I used to try to find a single charity to donate to, such as the Iranian Queer Railroad, to whom I donated in memory of my friend Jeff, but this year I donated to several different charities and thought I would do them an extra favour by writing about them here and encouraging you all to give to them as well. :)
Rainbow World Fund
When Haiti got struck by an earthquake in 2010, lots of my friends were making donations to various relief funds. I once worked for Save the Children on a magazine that was funded by money given for the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, so have always been wary of giving to popular disaster relief funds ever since. It’s pretty pointless donating to an organisation that thinks it can divert your donation to its fab new glossy self-promotion schemes.
However, the Rainbow World Fund don’t do that. Instead they do something pretty nifty. Not only do they send volunteers out to disaster stricken areas, as well as running a large number of other projects (“RWF currently supports projects focusing on global HIV/AIDS, water development, landmine eradication, hunger, education, orphans and disaster relief in Africa, Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States.”), they also raise awareness of LGBT issues in the areas they work in. AND their admin costs total less than 3% of their total income as well, which is phenomenal. They got my cash, at any rate.
“Erowid is a small non-commercial organization that operates in the controversial and politically challenging niche of trying to provide accurate, specific, and responsible information about how psychoactives are used in the United States and around the world. ”
In other words, Erowid has lots and lots of information on drugs. What they do, where to find them, how to use them safely, how they combine with other drugs, and more. Erowid is primarily built through the “trip report”, or a written account of the author’s particular experience with a drug, including dosage, coming up times, and even body weight.
This might seem like a stoner’s dream, but it has a very serious purpose. There will be people who will have lived because they got the information they needed to stay safe from Erowid, and no other organisation or website in the world can offer the level of experience, knowledge, and more importantly, impartiality that Erowid can.
That’s the important part for me. For the little drug policy geek that lives in all of us, however, Erowid has also sought to archive every document and record relating to the development of recreational drugs and their usage throughout history. They currently store more than 50,000 documents recording the research of psychoactives – the entire notebook collection of Alexander Shulgin (the scientist who brought MDMA and the 2C family to the world) has been loaned to them for transcription and archiving.
Basically, Erowid is amazing, and you should give them lots of money (or time, they need more volunteers!). Failing that, you can always write a trip report…
Friends of Antara UK
Friends of Antara UK is a support organisation for Antara, a mental health charity in North East India. Less than 1% of India’s health budget is spent on mental health, and there are only 2-3 psychiatrists per million people (the UK has 50), so the need is pressing. Antara provides 200 inpatient beds, communty care services and a rehabilitation centre, and treats over 1600 outpatients a week.
Friends of Antara engages in fundraising and awareness activities over here, mostly through university societies (currently located at Leeds, Warwick and York). More importantly, a friend of mine sits on the General Committee and badgered me about how helpful FoA are until I finally sent them a cheque.
http://friendsofantarauk.org/ (Update 2016: this link no longer exists, please see: http://www.antaraglobal.org/friends-of-antara.html)
Roleystone Horse Sanctuary
I will confess, I have little interest in horses. A friend on my Facebook, however, does, and when I put up a request for a charity to donate to, ranted at me about how horse sanctuaries needed extra cash for hay for the winter until I sent them a donation that was small but will probably cover a horse or two for a bit.
I can’t say much about them, but to judge from their (hilariously mispelled) website, their expenditure on self-flattering publicity or expensive branding is precisely nil. If you do want to ensure any donation you give will go straight to its intended purpose, Roleystone is your place.